Chief medical officer opens new unit to help fight against dementia 

24/01/2014 00:00 
UCLH together with UCL, has opened a research unit with a focus on young onset dementias and the development of new methods of diagnosis and treatment.


The NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit aims to discover  new  disease  genes  and  develop  rapid  clinical  testing, use genetic information to guide studies of the molecular processes of neurodegeneration. It will develop new  treatments for  those genetically  at  risk and translate discoveries in young onset dementia to  older  patient  groups.
The unit, one of four which were set up in response to the Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Dementia Challenge’, was awarded £4.5m over a five year period from April 2012 and opened officially by Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.
Dame Sally said: “This unit demonstrates the government’s ongoing commitment to tackling dementia. Research like that which is being led by the NIHR Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit is going to be absolutely critical if we are to understand this condition better and find new treatments and ultimately a cure.
“Treating patients with dementia costs £22 billion every year and we know that by 2025, some 34 million people across the globe are going to have dementia .
“Aside from the devastating impact dementia can have on individuals and their families, there is a real international economic incentive to enhance our understanding.
“Thank you to all of the researchers and clinicians at this unit for the work you are doing. Keep it up, it’s incredibly important.”
In December last year, David Cameron used the UK’s presidency of the G8 to spearhead a global effort to tackle dementia.
Earlier in 2013 he announced that UK funding on dementia research would be doubled to £66 million by 2015 and issued a challenge to find a cure within 12 years.
Research carried out at the NIHR Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit is organised across four programmes: molecular mechanisms, signatures of diseases, biomarkers of change and novel therapies; led by Professor John Collinge, Professor John Hardy, Professor Nick Fox and Professor Martin Rossor, respectively.
Early highlights from the molecular mechanisms programme include the development and testing of more efficient and cost effective ways to diagnose early onset, genetic forms of dementia. A panel called the ‘Medical Research Centre Dementia Gene panel’ explores together for the first time all 17 genes known to play a substantial role in causing inherited forms of dementia.
Within the novel therapies programme a study soon to start is a clinical trial of deep brain stimulation to improve cognitive deficits in patients with dementia with Lewy bodies, a type of dementia that shares symptoms with both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

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